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Improving Annual Review Cycles by Extending SAP SuccessFactors

Business-to-Employee Scenario: Using extension capabilities of SAP Cloud Platform to extend SAP SuccessFactors for transforming the conventional ratings and appraisal process in an organization with SAP Talk.

This blueprint provides common information, guidance, and direction for constructing a cloud based application using SAP Cloud Platform services, helping businesses to extend reach and increase productivity of the employees. Keeping a real business to employee use case in mind and by using SAP Cloud Platform this guide solves a common business challenge. It includes the extension capabilities of the platform and the benefits of the solution, the main SAP Cloud Platform components for licensing considerations, and a visual solution diagram depicting a basic architectural pattern.

Business Scenario

In today’s fast paced environment, it’s very important to cater the changing needs of the prevalent workforce. Businesses are faced with the challenge of high attrition rate everywhere and to keep the workforce intact it’s of paramount importance to understand their needs and have a continuous dialogue.

Companies are working diligently on adopting strategies to ease into digital transformation. Performance management is an up and coming topic that companies are moving to the top of their priorities list in terms of requiring a redesign. Companies recognize the financial and time obligation required to onboard new hires so they can positively impact business. Unfortunately, what falls short is the ongoing coaching and feedback to continue harvesting employee talent. Companies want to continue making progress on their employee investments and in order to do that effectively the traditional annual appraisals model needs to be enhanced with continuous, frequent coaching and feedback.

Some companies have recognized the dislike among employees for the annual year end appraisal. Employees took time away from year end productivity to focus on rating themselves and proving why they were deserving of a merit increase and/or promotion. Companies have realized that transitioning from a culture of periodic performance reviews to a culture of continuous dialog was the way forward. To accomplish this, the company needed a tool to facilitate the communication between manager and their direct reports. At a high level the tool needed to be simple to use, provide an immutable record of interactions, and integrate with the direct reports’ annual goals that exist in the HR system.

Solution

Some employees may find difficult to discuss their career prospects with manager on a regular basis. In order to empower them with everything they need for better performance, an omnichannel application for execution and fulfillment based on information from their work is required. To keep up with demand, this application will help to process precise data points discussed between the employee and the manager resulting in increased productivity. Furthermore, this will ensure that more focus is on better serving the common goal of employee and the organization.This shift in performance review process will increase employee productivity by providing precise data points discussed between employee and manager and formalizing a structured plan for individual growth.

Being a thought leader and in pursuit to help organizations transform the traditional review cycle, SAP co-innovated with SAP SuccessFactors to build this solution using SAP Cloud Platform. "SAP Talk" is an extension application running on SAP Cloud Platform that provides a user interface for managers and employees to track their 1:1 meetings conducted in the context of performance. The application gives employees access to their talks and, in addition, managers access to the talks of their direct reports. The user can create new talks, add new items to an existing talks, create comments and upload attachments.

Solution Description

A web application, which will allow the employees to create the goal/ development plan and send it to their managers and have a regular track and sync, accordingly. This will help to keep the process transparent and trackable.

The company developed an extension application to SAP SuccessFactors, built and deployed on the SAP Cloud Platform to enable this transition from a culture of periodic performance reviews to a culture of continuous dialog. The application will give employees and managers a single place to document their talks/progress, track their professional and personal goals in a less formalized and easy to consume process.

An HTML5/SAPUI5 Web application with a server logic implemented in Java and running on SAP Cloud Platform was built with the following interactions in mind:

  1. User data and direct reports data, for example if the user is a manager, the data is read using the SAP SuccessFactors User OData API and the relevant discussions are retrieved.
  2. The data is transformed as required by the Java backend application and passed to the HTML5/SAPUI5 frontend.
  3. All content is then passed to the user’s browser. From here the end user can create new dialog’s, add agenda items (or activities) to existing talks, create comments, and upload attachments.
  4. In all cases, data is then passed back to the Java backend.
  5. This creates or updates the corresponding data objects in SAP SuccessFactors via OData API.
  6. The user can also access the performance manager (SAP SuccessFactors) instance directly to create goals and development plans.

Solution Diagram

SAP Cloud Platform is the extension platform for SAP. It enables developers to develop loosely coupled extension applications securely, thus implementing additional workflows or modules on top of the existing solution they already have without disruption of the core system.

Reference Solution Diagram

The following graphical diagram of the solution illustrates a basic architectural pattern for extending the SAP SuccessFactors systems and creating a HTML5/SAPUI5 application that can be used by employees on their browser.

Reference Solution Components

The following list describes the main components needed to implement this scenario and the role they play in the overall solution.

HTML5/SAPUI5 Application - SAP UI5 is a JavaScript application framework designed to build cross-platform, responsive, enterprise-ready web applications that run in a browser. SAP Cloud Platform HTML5 runtime provides the capability to develop and host this part of the solution.

JAVA Application -  SAP Cloud Platform applications can be based on the Java EE Web application model. You can use programming logic that is well-known to you, and benefit from the advantages of Java EE, which defines the application backend. Inside, you can consume the services provided by the platform.

Corporate Identity Provider – The corporate user store that provides identifiers for users looking to interact with a system. When the service is configured to use the corporate user store, it allows employees to authenticate with their corporate credentials eliminating the need to use another set of credentials for their cloud access. It could be any SAML2.0 compliant Identity providers running in the cloud or on the corporate networks.

Connectivity Service - The connectivity service allows SAP Cloud Platform applications to access securely remote services that run on the Internet or on premise.

SAP SAP SuccessFactors System – Is the primary data source system where the data is stored for the employees like Performance & Goals, Learning &    Development, etc.

Data Flow

This solution diagram would explain how the data is flowing:

  1. Once the user has been authenticated, the end user access the HTML5/SAPUI5 application to create new dialogs, add agenda items (or activities) to existing talks, create comments, and upload attachments
  2. The HTML5/SAPUI5 application makes a call to the Java application.
  3. The Java Application uses the connectivity service on SAP Cloud Platform to get data from SAP SuccessFactors, process it and send it to the HTML5/SAPUI5 application. All the role based authorizations are done in the Java application
  4. Connectivity service is used for outbound communication of Java application to SAP SuccessFactors. The destinations under connectivity service contain the connection details for the remote communication of an application. The currently supported destination types are HTTP, Mail and RFC.
  5. SAP SuccessFactors exposes its data objects as OData APIs which are consumed in this application.

Security

Security in the cloud also referred to as ‘Cloud Computing Security’ encompasses a variety of procedures, standards and technologies employed to protect data, applications and associated infrastructure. To make it easier to understand, consider breaking it up into three topics: Authentication, Authorization and Single Sign-On.  

Consider the following topic descriptions:

  1. Authentication is the process of proving that an application user is who they say they are.
  2. Authorization is the process of providing permissions to the user, giving users the access to the application data that they need.
  3. Single Sign-On is the service that permits a user to use one set of login credentials to access multiple applications.

When implementing the solution just described, it was kept in mind that each of the three security topics described above have a number of options for how they get implemented with SAP Cloud Platform. For this solution, Corporate Identity Provider was the chosen system from where the user credentials like username and password were fetched for doing authentication and SAML Bearer Assertion was setup to establish trust between SAP SuccessFactors and SAP Cloud Platform enabling single sign on and access data from SAP SuccessFactors. Regarding the authorization, it is the Java application where the roles are defined.

In the scope of this extension application, SAP SuccessFactors identity provider was integrated with the frontend and the middleware applications, hosted on SAP Cloud Platform, and the user base was managed by SAP SuccessFactors. The identity provider where the user credentials are stored/ managed can be a mix of SAP SuccessFactors identity provider and the customer’s identity provider.

Below you will find the security solution diagram and the steps for each of the three chosen security topics. You can go to the entire security blueprints by clicking on the link in the section.  From the security blueprint, you can link to all the other options you have for authentication, authorization and Identity Propagation in the blueprint library.

Scenario Authentication

Corporate Identity Provider: Below blueprint provides common information, guidance, and direction for implementing a Corporate Identity Provider as the Identity Provider for applications on the SAP Cloud Platform. It will allow you to use a common source of identities for all your cloud based application. It provides a standard, internationally adopted method for authentication using SAML assertions.

For more information visit Corporate Identity Provider | SAP Cloud Platform Blueprint

Scenario Authorization

Authorization: This blueprint provides common information, guidance, and direction for implementing user authorizations on the SAP Cloud Platform. Authorization is one of the key pillars for security as it determines whether someone is who she/he pretends to be and grant access to application resources within applications.

For more information visit Authorization | SAP Cloud Platform Blueprint

Scenario Single Sign-on

SAML Bearer Assertion: SAP Cloud Platform provides support for applications to use the SAML Bearer assertion flow for consuming OAuth-protected resources. In this way, applications do not need to deal with some of the complexities of OAuth and can reuse existing identity providers for user data. Users are authenticated by using SAML against the configured trusted identity providers. The SAML assertion is then used to request an access token from an OAuth authorization server. This access token is automatically injected in all HTTP requests to the OAuth-protected resources.

Learn More

This blueprint highlights important considerations companies need to analyze while reviewing current performance management practices (Integrated Talent Management – ITM), this process was re-thought in SAP and transformed towards a culture of continuous dialogue and feedback. However, it is recommended to review further information to help you implement the scenario in your businesses.  

The solution consists of the following data objects (APIs) which are part of the standard SAP SuccessFactors.

  1. Talk represents the 1:1 conversation between manager and employee.
  2. Activity represents an “agenda item” of the talk. It defines the connection between the meeting and the individual topics that have been discussed.
  3. Activity Feedback captures all comments related to an activity.
  4. Goal represents to customer goal management template relevant for SAP Talk and is required to link the individual goals defined for the employee with activities.
  5. Development Goal represents to customer development goal management template relevant for the continuous performance application.
  6. Attachment: The user can add an attachment to a comment.

Other resources:

  • Visit this link to understand how you can extend SAP SuccessFactors.
  • You might also want to have a look at our free online OpenSAP course for extending SAP SuccessFactors HCM Suite with SAP Cloud Platform.
  • Here you will find some applications which are developed by our partner ecosystem and certified by SAP.
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